Coach Ernest Radcliffe (hand in upper right corner) prepares to bring a pen over to one of his players during The Show travel baseball team's signing day celebration in Jackson Park Tuesday. Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago

WOODLAWN — A South Side travel baseball team honored a dozen of its graduating seniors with a signing day Tuesday at Jackson Park as they prepare to spread across the country with college scholarships and apprenticeships in hand.

Twelve players with The Show travel team, based out of Woodlawn, joined their families and younger teammates for the occasion. They are:

  • Asa Waites, of Morgan Park High School, utility, attending Clark Atlanta University.
  • Jaden Foster, of Morgan Park High School, middle infielder, attending Clark Atlanta University.
  • Amarion Watson, of Kenwood Academy, middle infielder, attending Benedict College.
  • Dorian Andrews, of Chicago High School for the Agricultural Sciences, catcher, attending Clark Atlanta University.
  • Aubrey Yarbrough, of Kenwood Academy, pitcher/outfielder, attending Florida Memorial University.
  • Sean Bolin, of Kenwood Academy, first baseman, attending Clark Atlanta University.
  • Jatonne Sterling Jr., of Morgan Park High School, pitcher/outfielder, attending Clark Atlanta University.
  • Nathaniel Diaz, of South Shore International College Prep, middle infielder, attending Central Christian College of Kansas.
  • Omar Albert Jr., of Morgan Park High School, outfielder, attending the Chicago Pipefitters Local 597 apprenticeship program.
  • Avery Evans, of Morgan Park High School, pitcher/infielder, attending Wright State University-Lake Campus.
  • Kaleb Chatman, of Morgan Park High School, outfielder, attending Millikin University.
  • Michael Eaton, of Morgan Park High School, outfielder, undecided.

The majority of players recognized at the signing day will attend historically Black colleges and universities, with five bound for Clark Atlanta.

“Atlanta provides a lot of opportunities for Black people — it’s like Black Hollywood,” Sterling said. “Even if baseball didn’t work for any one of us, we have more opportunities outside of baseball. We can pursue a lot of different careers” there.

Attending an HBCU will provide the incoming freshmen with a tight-knit network of alumni and supporters from the day they begin classes, several of the teens’ parents said.

“It’s just that level of pride that [alumni] have for the school — it’s everywhere,” said Alonzo Foster, father of Jaden Foster. “We’re in the store, and we say, ‘Oh, he’s going to Clark Atlanta.’ This lady sat him down and had a full conversation with him, just because of that pride you have when you go to an HBCU. I want that to follow him throughout baseball and throughout his career moving forward.”

Dorian Andrews and Jaden Foster have played together since their Wrightwood Little League days, winning the first district championship in the team’s history in 2015 with their fathers as coaches. The duo and the other Clark Atlanta commits plan to use that chemistry to their advantage.

The future Clark Atlanta teammates and the two players bound for Benedict College are set to compete against each other often, as the schools play in the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. But the longtime friends won’t take it easy on each other, they said.

“It’s going to get real competitive,” said Watson, a Benedict commit. “They can’t get a pass.”

Other soon-to-be-former teammates shared the motivations behind their school choices at Monday’s event.

Yarbrough, who said he’s grown tired of playing baseball in Chicago’s “blistering cold weather,” is excited to attend the consistently warm Florida Memorial campus and feels its environmental science program will be a good fit for his interests.

Diaz chose Central Christian College because of his faith — he has conversations with God before every game, he said — and the small-town Kansas campus will better allow him to focus on academics and athletics.

The players’ success is due in large part to the support systems around them, from coach Ernest Radcliffe to family members and their fellow teammates, said Monica McCalpin, Waites’ mother.

McCalpin credited Waites’ great-great-grandmother, Lizzie McCalpin, and third-great-uncle, Louis Mauldin, who were also in attendance for the signing day celebration, for their roles in guiding her son to success.

Maudlin in particular served as a role model, stressing the importance of education while bringing Waites to numerous White Sox games — which failed to influence the young boy, who grew to love the Cubs instead.

“My uncle has always exposed [Waites] to different things to do in the city, whether it was Navy Pier, the aquarium or the planetarium,” Monica McCalpin said. “He would just show [Waites] what it’s like being here, how beautiful the city is and what to look forward to.”

Coach Ernest Radcliffe holds an oversized $500 check, awarded to Michael Eaton at Tuesday’s signing day celebration. Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago

Thanks to the loved ones around them, the graduating players know it’s important to put in “a lot of hard work” to develop skills and interests outside baseball, Radcliffe said. It’s something he’s instilled in them during their years with the team.

“It’s my responsibility as a coach and as the director to make sure every young person that comes through the program has the opportunity to come to college … get their degrees and come back into the community to help out,” Radcliffe said. “I love all my guys.”

It’s on the families, coaches and everyone else involved with The Show to stay connected with the players as they disperse across the country, said Rick Bolin, Sean Bolin’s dad.

With the proper academic supports to stay in college until graduation, the kids will eventually return the favor by supporting the communities they grew from. That care and reciprocity is a major key toward changing the national narrative about what it means to be a South Side native, Rick Bolin said.

“I know [the players are] going to come and give back, because they’ve been taught by their parents and by coach Radcliffe to give back to their community,” Rick Bolin said. “I know this is just the beginning for them, so I expect greatness for all of them.”

Younger players with The Show warm up for practice following Tuesday’s celebration. Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago

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